Friday Night Lights. Most of the student body is packed tight together on bleachers, screaming at the top of their lungs, as some of their fiercest classmates are ready for a gridiron battle unlike any other in sport. High school football can be a riveting and unifying experience for a school, but, unfortunately, it’s some- thing that students at Durham Academy will likely never get to experience.
The last time a football was officially snapped on DA’s campus was over thirty-five years ago. At this time, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was the top hit in theaters, Michael Jordan still donned Carolina Blue, and Robert Hallyburton, father of Scott (‘18), was the quarterback for your Cavaliers.
Before then, things were looking up for DA Football. The school had recently hired a successful Athletic Director/Football Coach from New Orleans who looked to make the program a competitive one. This would prove short lived, however, as DA’s lack of size on the offensive and defensive lines killed their chances of contending at a high level.
Mr. Murray, who recalls the glory days of DA Football, said that the quarterback “spent a lot of time running for his life throughout the season.” The Cavaliers simply did not have the size to compete, and a few games into that 1982 campaign, there were less than fifteen healthy DA players.
The rest of the season had to be called off from there, and Durham Academy never brought back the football program, bringing forth a plethora of DA Football merchandise that reads “Undefeated since 1982.” So could Durham Academy ever trot out a football team ever again? It would have to start with bringing in bigger athletes into the school, or as Mr. Murray describes it, “meat on the hoof.”
DA’s student body is filled with stereotypical skill players, who are usually around six feet tall, very quick, and work well with the ball in their hands. If more students who are over 210 pounds arrive on campus, then an offensive and defensive line could begin to form and DA could have a realistic shot at a football team.
Some may say that DA does not have enough athletes to field an entire roster, but there are many other schools in North Carolina with student bodies around the same size as DA’s that are able to form football teams. These schools include Christ School, Asheville School, and Wake Christian Academy. Not to mention, DA’s class sizes have been rising steadily from year to year, with this year’s senior class holding 102 students to the sophomores having 119.
It is also a possibility for DA to form an eight man football team, where teams play with eight players on the field instead of eleven. This alleviates some of the need for larger players, while still providing an action packed football game. There are two prominent eight-man leagues in the state, with one based around schools in Raleigh. The main issue with starting a football program, however, is health concerns. Recent studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head and commonly found in football players, is sweeping the nation, and some wonder if football is safe enough for high school athletes anymore.
Former players who develop CTE have symptoms of depression, voices in their head, memory loss, and aggression. Many players who are left with the disease decide to commit suicide in the end, which devastates families and friends.
Mr. Murray understands that anything could happen, but when he weighed in on the possible future of DA Football, he stated, “I love football, but with the risks associated with injury, and the lack of guys in the trenches, it’s hard to imagine DA having a football team again in the near future.”
So, would school administration risk the health of their students to bring back the football program? It’s unlikely, but that won’t keep the students from yearning about the possibility of Friday Night Lights.